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Friday, 1 January 2021

Things that I have learned about growing up


I think one of the most surreal things in life is how fast time passes by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the government announced that our country would go into lockdown, that I graduated from university, that I took the leap of faith and enlisted into the Army...

In a blink of an eye, so much has happened, so much has changed, and so have I. I recall the days when I wouldn't think twice about doing something 'fun', regardless of the risk or how out of the way it is. Or when I got so frustrated that I would spend the whole day just thinking about how frustrated I am. Or the amount of time and effort I spent on making myself appear more likeable. I still see some of this in my baby sister, who's now a teenager.

Over the past few years, I've learned a couple of things about growing up that makes people become more mellow (almost by default) as they enter into adulthood.

1. The Art of Compartmentalising

As though studying for A Levels wasn't hard enough, I remember being completely useless and unable to focus on writing my essays whenever I fought with my boyfriend back then. I couldn't put my emotions aside and focus on the task at hand. It was just impossible. As a result, we would spend hours going in circles trying to settle the problem while we were still so emotional. Today, I'm amused by my ability to tell myself to get my act together, put on my K-POP playlist to distract myself from the negative emotions and complete my staff paper that is due in a couple of hours. 

Compartmentalising. I realised that a huge part of becoming an adult is learning how to put aside your emotions and go into 'fire-fighting mode' when you have an important task to complete.

2. Tact and Half-Truths

I'm a very blunt person. I always thought it was better to be honest and say things as it is rather than to beat around the bush and sugarcoat my words. When I first enlisted into the Army, I remember saying whatever the hell I liked, regardless of who I was talking to - and that got me into a lot of trouble. Over the years, like a dog being trained by its owner on how to behave, I learned how to say things in way that I could bring across my point without offending anyone. 

His ego, her face, your opportunities, the dynamics of the team, office politics, a good night's sleep... these are things you learn to consider before uttering a word. And most of the time, the words that come out of your mouth isn't the entire truth. Tact and half-truths - these the weapons and shields that help you survive adulthood. 

3. How Insignificant You Are

One of the things that I miss (and not miss at the same time) about the younger days are the friendship cliques (or #squad?). Bummin' around together after school every other day, late night phone calls, slumber parties, and sharing every little detail of your life... I look back at those days with fond memories but I also realised that I didn't exactly enjoy my time doing those things - I'm not sure if anyone really does. You do things you don't really want to do just because you want to be part of the clique. It's fun as a teenager but but as you grow older, you realise that life is too short for that and you start prioritising other things like personal development or family. You care less about being accepted into social circles. Why? You realise that the number of people who truly care about you is minimal and that's okay. Friendships come and go, and only a handful will make the effort to stay regardless of the circumstances. 

Becoming an adult involves coming to terms with how insignificant you are to most people and learning to channel your energy to those who truly matter.

4. Get Acquainted with Disappointment

Life is full of disappointments. And I've learned that the faster you come to terms with it, the easier it will be. I remember sobbing my heart out for an entire day (or two) when I got back my A Level results, which didn't meet my scholarship conditions. I was disappointed for a very long time and stopped giving my best in other areas - some of which I still feel the repercussions today. On hindsight, I wish I had accepted my reality sooner and focused on righting the wrongs rather than crying over spilled milk. I'm not sure if I've become more pessimistic or resilient (or both) but it now seems much easier to look disappointment in the fact, nod, and move on.

To effectively navigate your way through adulthood, I think you have to learn how to get acquainted with disappointment. Don't get too chummy with it but learn how to shake its hands when it visits and bid it farewell so that it doesn't overstay its welcome.

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These are the things that I have learned about growing up. But then again, when I think about the brilliant people in this world, I realised that they are fuelled by passion, and their work and emotions are meshed together perfectly. That they never nuance their words; they say things the way they are because of their conviction. That they cannot stand to be insignificant and will keep striving towards being extraordinary. That they are so afraid of disappointment that they will do what it takes to make sure that they succeed. 

What a strange, strange world. 

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